Delaware’s Special Education “Needs Intervention”
By: Lauren M. O’Connell Mahler
On June 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education (the “U.S. DOE”) announced that Delaware is not adequately meeting the needs of students with special needs, and consequently “needs intervention.” Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), the U.S. DOE is required to annually monitor each state’s special education programs, and must sort all of the nation’s jurisdictions into four categories: “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention” and “needs substantial intervention.” This year, the U.S. DOE announced that it will implement a new Results-Driven Accountability (“RDA”) framework to assess state special education programs under IDEA. The old method of assessing state IDEA compliance looked mainly at whether states were meeting procedural requirements (e.g., timelines for evaluations, due process hearings, and transition services). RDA raises the bar by also examining whether states are achieving educational results for students with disabilities, such as graduation rates, performance on state assessments, proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and their peers, and scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (“NAEP”) test.
Under last year’s less stringent framework, Delaware fell into the “needs assistance” category. This year, Delaware is among only three states to fall into the “needs intervention” category under RDA, alongside California and Texas. Washington, D.C., the Virgin Islands, and the Bureau of Indian Education also received this rating. No states received the “needs substantial intervention” rating, placing Delaware among the 3 worst-performing states in the nation for special education.
The recent ratings were based on state data from 2012-2013. The biggest area of weakness that the U.S. DOE cited in Delaware’s data is the percentage of students with disabilities who were excluded from taking the reading NAEP: a national standardized test that examines students’ performance in reading. As a result of this and other factors, Delaware may receive intervention from the U.S. DOE.
Under IDEA, if a state needs assistance for 2 years in a row, the U.S. DOE must take action, such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance. If Delaware receives poor ratings 3 years in a row, IDEA requires the U.S. DOE to take more significant steps, such as to prepare a corrective action plan for Delaware, enter into a compliance agreement, or possibly revoke a portion of Delaware’s funding. How state officials and the U.S. DOE will address Delaware’s deficits in special education programming remains to be seen.
Change in Delaware’s special education programming is clearly needed. Delaware parents should be vigilant in monitoring that their children with disabilities are making meaningful progress and should become educated on their special education rights. For more information, visit www.mcandrewslaw.com or call (302) 380-4975.